South Charlotte

High school embraces the global perspective

Matthew Hayes sits in an office freshly painted in rich purple and metallic gold, door open to all comers – students, staff, and visitors.

The principal of the School of International Studies and Global Economics, part of the Olympic Community of Schools, he is clear in his vision and goals for the program.

He stresses the need for students to master basic skills and core subjects, while learning them from a global approach.

The parent information booklet points out that the school will be ”integrating a Global perspective in every class this year, and in so doing, will expect all students to have some knowledge of the International community in which we live.”

A biology project might deal with greenhouse gases; a chemistry class, oceanography. Languages include German, Chinese, and Spanish.

He has high praise for his international staff. They represent Ireland, Africa, Vietnam, China, Germany and the U.S..

“We want for our students to see past the end of their own street,” Hayes says, “It is the staff that creates the environment that allows that to happen.”

To help pupils “understand how things that happen across the globe affect us here,” he uses the example of the IPod.

They discuss materials in the international market, labor laws affecting where and how things are manufactured, how all of the processes and manufacturing materials need to be coordinated from a central place.

Cognis Corp., a German chemical company, opened its Charlotte office doors to students.

Students got a first-hand look at the workings of a large international corporation. Hayes hopes to see more local corporations offering similar exposure to his students.

Much attention is given to staff-student relationships. He stresses that students and staff be “accountable, respectful, and engaged.” Teachers are constantly evaluating their students, themselves and the program to be as effective as possible.

The small student population, about 375, makes it possible for Hayes and his staff to get to know the entire student body, and often recognize problems in their infancy.

The second time I saw Hayes, he was distracted by the need to help a former graduate. Hayes had worked closely with this young man, and now his college entrance had hit a snag through no fault of the student. Hayes was garnering his staff to help solve the problem.

Underscoring the idea of providing a “very structured and rigorous environment for all of our students to excel past their own expectations,” Hayes points with pride to the achievements so far, while acknowledging there is always more to do.